I cooked my first roast chicken when I was eighteen. At eighteen months old, I had stopped eating meat. No one knows why, but according to my mother, I reveled in hamburgers before that elusive decision. I stuck with my vegetarianism until the end of high school, when curiosity got to me. I was tired of always maneuvering around pesky bits of bacon that snuck into pasta sauce or turning a blind eye to chicken stock. A hunger for exploration was developing.
My mom and I roasted a chicken together. I followed her instructions while sneaking peaks at Melissa Clark’s suggestions for chicken roasted with lemon and garlic. I held my breath while rinsing the bird, flushing blood from the body cavity. I felt I had to be able to reconcile with the gross bits. It worked, as roast chicken always does. There is something fool-proof about the bird rubbed down in salt, pepper and olive oil subject to a hot oven for forty-five minutes. Sometimes it is a little dry or the skin does not get quite crispy enough, but it always tastes good.
A few weeks ago, so a few years after the first bird, I rifled through the pantry looking to put together dinner. There were a couple of chicken thighs defrosting in the sink, a bag of fingerling potatoes and too many onions. I sliced the onion to cook low and slow in butter. Quartered potatoes to roast. But what about these thighs? My boyfriend (who has come to leave me alone in the kitchen, wisely) pointed at a bag of dried apricots and said, “What about these?” I waved him out of my zone and poked at the spice rack.Curry powder…and apricots! Chickpeas? I turned to the fridge, always full of half-opened jars of things. Tomato paste. And always garlic .
for the suggested apricots
for the chicken
four pieces of chicken, breast or thigh
a glug of olive oil
2 tbsp +/- tomato paste
1 tbsp curry powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz can chickpeas
1/3-1/2 cup dried apricots
for the onions
2-3 yellow onions, sliced thin
Mix olive oil, tomato paste, curry powder, garlic and a pinch of salt in an oven-proof dish. It should have a paste-like consistency, not too dry, not too runny. Add the chicken pieces and rub with marinade. Let sit while preparing the onions (the longer you let it sit, the better, but it works without a long marinade).
Heat a generous amount of butter in a heavy pan, preferably cast iron. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté the onions over low heat for at least an hour. Just before serving, deglaze the pan with splash of white wine. Turn up the heat to evaporate excess liquid.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. If your oven has a convection-roast setting, use it. It’ll make the chicken extra-crispy. Soak the apricots in boiling water. Add the chickpeas to the dish and mix around. Arrange the chicken skin-side up. Cook until done, about 40 minutes.
Drain the apricots and add to the pan. Top with caramelized onions.